Finally finished reading The Lives of the Great Composers by Harold C. Schonberg. Couple things that stood out:
1. This is really obvious, but composers have to make money. Not until Beethoven was there an artist composed for art’s sake, and even after him a huge quantity of works were written for a living. Just interesting to think that a lot of wonderful works had as their impetus a paycheck.
2. The departure from tonality was absolutely huge (again obvious, but sometimes its easy to miss things until they’re pointed out to you); since then, audiences have been pretty much alienated from classical music, despite tonal and “easy” music coming back after the serialism movement. Needless to say, Schonberg is not a devotee of serialism, and his book has made me, at least for the moment, lean even farther away from it.
3. Going through classical history in such a methodical manner made me realize how every new movement was a drastic change (not just atonality). Even Romanticism, which is so beloved and seems so palatable now was once at the vanguard of art, with strong polemics attacking and defending it.